Officials from Antigua and Barbuda are considering taking legal action against the United States for the FBI’s part in shutting down the major American online poker sites last Friday. The two-island nation, which licenses internet gambling and online poker, contends that the United States has violated global trade laws and is considering prosecuting through the World Trade Organization. In 2005, Antigua and Barbuda won a ruling against the United States for prosecuting offshore companies providing online gambling and poker.
Antigua and Barbuda has long been battling the United States over its legislation and actions taken against offshore online gambling and poker sites. Poker’s Black Friday provides the nation with a high stakes legal set-up where any ruling could set precedent of significant consequence for offshore gambling practices around the world.
Mark Mendel, a Caribbean government legal counsel, said, “I don’t think there’s another country in the world that puts people in jail for engaging in trade that’s lawful under international law. It’s as if Antigua would put Americans in jail for selling pineapples.”
The pending legal war centers on PokerStars, based in the Isle of Man, Full Tilt Poker, based in Ireland, and Absolute Poker, based in Antigua. Harold Lovell, Antigua finance minister, believes the shutdown was illegal, and commented, “I am concerned that at this point in time United States authorities continue to prosecute non-domestic suppliers of remote gaming services in clear contravention of international law.”
Following tourism, online gambling is Antigua’s largest industry. In 2005, the WTO issued a ruling that the United States could not prosecute offshore providers of online gambling and poker.
Officials from Antigua and Barbuda are meeting throughout this week to determine their legal course of action, including the possibility of WTO sanctions against the United States.